YouTube for Freelance Creatives: Is it Worth it?


If you’re a freelance creative, you’ve probably looked at all of the social media platforms out there and thought, which one is best for me? Committing to a YouTube channel can be a big time investment, but can also offer huge returns for the work you put into it. So, is a YouTube channel really worth it for you?

Hello, I’m Jess. I’m a freelance illustrator, creative consultant and also, a vlogger. I started vlogging for a few reasons. Mostly because I've personally gained so much knowledge and inspiration from the people who share their stories online. From a mix of podcasts, TED talks, and YouTubers, I got the courage to quit my day job and start an illustration business.

The hardest part of quitting my corporate job and starting a freelance business was not having people to talk to about it - to bounce ideas off of, have the occasional vent and collaborate with. I wanted to find my tribe, and catalogue the lessons I was learning as I built my business. So, I started a YouTube series called “Freelance Illustration Friday.

Things started slowly with a handful of views and subscribers and a lot of time invested planning, shooting and editing videos. I wasn’t sure if it was worth it, but I’d given myself until the end of the year to test and learn. YouTube, like all social platforms, has a tricky algorithm, and it’s tough to get to the top of search results unless people are viewing and engaging with your content. But, all you really need is one video to become popular and subscribers can sky-rocket in a matter of hours.

The first indication that I might be onto something was when my children’s publishing agent decided to use one of my videos in an eblast to editors - instead of traditional portfolio samples. The feedback was great. The campaign had a click through rate four times higher than average, and I’d convinced the busy editors to spend eleven minutes hanging out with me.

Since then, I’ve used videos in my pitches to new clients as a quick way to introduce myself and give them a glimpse into my creative process. They can choose to watch, or not, but the fact that I include more engaging content never hurts. I’ve even begun to get requests to make videos for some local business! However; I don’t expect to get discovered by clients on YouTube. The reality is, art directors, editors and marketing managers are not watching YouTube videos looking for creatives to hire. It’s not impossible, but it’s the exception, not the norm. But, it does give you a repository of quality content to help tell your story and strengthen your pitch that can help you stand out and get the gig.

By far the most important thing YouTube has given me is a creative community. I’ve met other illustrators through my YouTube channel from all around the world that I email with on a regular basis. We ask each other questions, keep up with what’s going on, share tips, and sometimes lament about the craziness of the industry we all chose to be a part of.  I recently was asked to be on a podcast through YouTube, I get asked to guest blog, and there is always the possibility of branded content, if you attract enough eyeballs.

If you’re thinking about YouTube, know this - it’s a big time investment. Making videos takes commitment, charisma and consistency. But. If you’re willing to put in the extra effort, people will give you that extra attention.

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